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Background: The Ponca Recognize the Rights of Rivers

On Mother’s Day in 2021, the Pa’thata Women’s Society of the Ponca tribe of OK held a Water Ceremony on Ponca powwow grounds to recognize the Rights of Rivers that flow from upstream from Nebraska, through Ponca lands, and down through the state and beyond. These rivers flow through the territories of dozens of tribes.  In July of 2022, the Ponca Business Council unanimously adopted the “Immutable Rights of Rivers” into tribal law, vowing to protect , Ní’skà, (the Arkansas River) and Ni’ží’dè, (the Salt Fork River) that give life to all living things.

But these waters, like so many on Turtle Island are threatened. The environmental impacts of fossil fuels played a big part in the Ponca tribes’ decision to adopt laws recognizing ecosystem rights. The tribe lives in a fossil fuel epicenter of fracking, pipelines, petrochemical plants, and refineries. No Ponca family is untouched by industry-related illnesses and deaths. Ponca Chairman Oliver Littlecook says, “Politicians and Big Oil call it ‘economic progress’. The Ponca call it ‘environmental genocide’. We can do better for our communities without sacrificing the water.” 

Be a Part of Protecting the Sacred Rights of Rivers:

Join the Convening of the 4 Winds

Over the next 2+ years we hope to support other regional tribes to come together to protect the Rights of Rivers through ceremony, tribal laws and direct action on the Fall and Spring equinox. The first of four The first of four Convenings of the 4 Winds will be hosted by the Ponca Tribe on their territory in September 21-22, 2022 on the Fall Equinox.

The two-day convening is detailed below, The Ponca open their arms with the aim to bring together 200-400 local and regional tribal communities, national Indigenous Rights of Nature advocates, and other climate justice leaders with expertise in Land Back, Indigenous Just Transition strategies, direct action trainings, and other areas. These events will focus on the Rights of Rivers. To join the event, you must first register here.    If you need travel assistance to attend, you can apply for the scholarship fund here. If you are financially able, please donate to the scholarship fund and cost of supporting the event.

Free camping: Basic camping available at White Eagle Ponca Powwow grounds. (bathrooms and access to showers and firewood available) No registration required.
RV park ($35/day) & full facilities camping ($20/day): Contact Ponca City RV Park
Hotel Reservations: La Quinta Hotel, Ponca City. Call (580)749-5472 ask for 4 Winds group rate ($69/night)

Limited lodging scholarships are available. Priority for Indigenous peoples from Oklahoma and Plains region. Apply for a Scholarship when you register. 

Septemeber 21st

Celebration of Water 

Ponca Powwow grounds
10 am – 4 pm
  • Procession led by Pa’thata Women’s Society and Intertribal women
  • Celebration of Water and the Rights of Rivers
  • Ceremony joining waters (all are welcome to bring water from your territory)
  • LUNCH provided by the Pa’thata Women’s Society
  • Ponca Singers
  • Testimony for the waters (all are welcome to participate), What are the Rights of Rivers?
  • Non-violent Direct Action Training

Septemeber 22nd

Protecting water: Day of action

Dan Moran Park Followed by White Eagle Cultural Center 10am – 4PM
  • Equinox Prayer March from Dan Moran park to Conoco Phillips led by the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty
  • LUNCH at the Cultural Center provided by the Pa’thata Women’s Society
  • Video Testimony for the waters (all are welcome to participate)
  • Community discussions & presentations: Strengthening Tribal Sovereignty to uphold Natural Laws, Rights of Nature, Indigenous Just Transition & Jobs, MMIW, Fossil Fuels and OK tribes
  • Thank You, Gifts and Closing by Tribes Hosting Spring Equinox Action

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